In 8 days I’ll be off on my next adventure and it definitely feels like its time. When I think about how I felt within the first month coming back Australia, I realised a lot of those feelings have faded and I wish it stayed with me forever. The thing is, lots of things change when you’re travelling and it all sort of comes to realisation when you come back home. But if you stay home long enough, those changes start to feel less significant or even disappear. It’s that desire to get those feelings back which contributes to the ‘travel bug’ or ‘itchy feet’. You just feel like you need to move again and feel that rush of energy, excitement, and passion.
Everyone can travel forever, and to a lot of people that’s the dream right? For me I could be away for a long time but I like to touch base with home because it hits me in the face how much I’ve grown and experienced that it refuels my motivation to keep finding new adventures.
Anyway I wanted to note down the things that changed (or things I realised) when I returned home from living abroad.
1. Everything was the same
It felt like nothing had changed. As if I was coming back to a prior life and I had to re-adjust to the way I was living life before I left. I termed it ‘growing backward’ and I disliked the feeling. Maybe this is part of the culture shock when returning home. When I was abroad I was constantly living a new experience, seeing something different everyday, interacting with new people, always making plans and thinking on my feet. That’s not to say you do that being back home too, but abroad you’re 100% out of your comfort zone. So when I returned to Sydney it’s like it had been stagnant since I left.
2. I struggled to answer ‘How was your trip’
There are too many experience that was had, and too many feelings that were experienced that the question feels like it needs to broken down into ‘How was your hike in Cinque Terre for 3 days that you took with Brigitte when you arrived in Italy?’. It was a question I expected a lot of people to ask me and each time it made my brain scramble for words and hysterically flip through images/dates/experiences/location names etc to give a good answer. In the end you really just say ‘It was amazing’ because you can’t find the words. When someone returns from a 1 year trip you want to hear ALL about it and expect story after story. In truth, I felt like I had just been doing some growing the past year and it’s random times when I’m with friends or family that a specific memory would spark and I could tell a story.
3. I was much more dear about food
When you’re on the move you eat what you have and buy only enough to feed yourself for each meal. There’s no takeaways, no storing it for later, no hoarding, and no wasting. When I lived in the Philippines for two months I experienced a lifestyle where food is appreciated and valued much more dearly than the western society where we have a crazy amount of options, are spoilt for choice, and are persuaded to each much more than we need to. And so when I came home and always saw the fridge full of left overs yet my mum was cooking another meal or buying more food when we had food, I got frustrated and upset.
4. Travelling solo was a bigger deal to other people
I always thought travelling solo was overrated. Maybe because I’ve grown up to feel so independent and I love to do things on my own and embracing the feel of foreign. I could understand why people think ‘wow’ and ‘that’s so brave’ or ‘I could never go by myself’, but I feel like travelling solo is one of the easiest things you could ever do in life (and simultaneously the most challenging), and what’s there to be afraid of? We’re all one species, on different continents, and we’re all related one way or another.
5. I didn’t know what to do with all this leftover currency!
Money is money and even though they were just coins, it’s still value. Going through 15+ countries that were cash-only economies meant I would inevitably left with a bunch of foreign coins that felt like deadweight because 1) I won’t be returning to that country for loooong time, and 2) they’re heavy to carry. Since coming home I’ve just collected them all into a little jar a mate gave me. I guess you could give them to someone who collects coins… Or I do remember going to an airport that had a box where you could donate all your foreign coins to charity. That’s such a great way to collect donations.
6. I stopped caring about what I wore or what other people wore
Who cares about the non-fancy pants you put on or the cheap $10 shirt you have on? People are personalities and a life is lived by experiences not by what your wearing. I used to care about dressing to impress, wearing expensive clothing, judging characters by what they wore, and looking fashionable. I had no care in the world when I came back and now I dress comfortably. Its funny how much clothing affects our first impressions / judgements of others before we even have a conversation with them.
7. I lost my appetite
My health and eating patterns evolved significantly and I developed eating disorders. As a result of irregular eating times and a lack of routine nutritional meals over a long period of time, I didn’t have an appetite for food when I came home, and I had lost 13kgs. I realised that instead of ‘enjoying food’ I just ate to survive. It’s taken a good 4-6 months to get my health back and build some muscle in my body that I lost. Even though I have temptations for food again, the digestion problem I developed (gastrointestinal reflux disorder) has been the most difficult thing I’ve had to cope with to date.
8. I was carefree
I was unemployed for 4 months before I landed a job I was happy with. But in the first few weeks of returning home, I had never felt so carefree about my career/future plans. I knew I’d be fine and things would work out.
Before I left my endeavours always felt like it was about going down a certain path, getting that grad job, planning the next career move, being a linked in superstar, professional development at the forefront, being that switched on person who’s always occupied with something. But I came back a changed person. I was so chill just chillin’ at home.
9. I started noticing hostels. And backpackers.
My first time venturing back into the CBD, the existence of every hostel would catch my eye. And I wasn’t even look for a hostel! It was like I was on auto alert for hostels on every street and corner. And I never noticed any hostels all these years being in the city 5 days a week. There were so many backpacker accommodations and I was tempted to just walk into one and meet other travellers. So why didn’t I? I guess it felt weird to think of myself as a backpacker in the city I grew up in. Something inside of me pulled pack and thought ‘Nah, let these backpackers be. You’re in your own city and you’re not travelling anymore. Let them do their thing’.
10. I didn’t experience post-travel depression
I read about this a few times and expected to feel somewhat depressed upon returning home. But I didn’t. Not in the weeks after returning, not even the months after. I had an amazing whole year to myself and exploration and I was grateful to be back home where I could stay still for as long as I needed, and dust myself off when it was time. I also appreciated people more, felt more kind-hearted toward others, and discovered a new found respect for the life my parents built themselves since arriving as refugees. Some things even felt new in a strange way, like driving. Travelling constantly is exhausting and I was simply tired. Besides, being home meant I was excited to see people again, to sort out my photos and get them printed, and eat foods I missed for ages!
11. I realised the confidence I’ve gained
I used to be a little shyer to speak up and ask questions. Sometimes I felt embarrassed or ashamed to do something, always worrying how I’d come off to other people – being judged. Well no more of that! I did everything shamelessly and found myself asking questions in situations I normally wouldn’t. I had become more direct, blunt and upfront about things, and found the idea of approaching a stranger so much easier. Life felt simple – as it should be.
12. I realised how little I need
I had forgotten about all the crap that I own and upon rediscovering them, asked myself ‘Why do I have this? Do i NEED this?’. I was able to fit everything I needed into a backpack that weighed no more than 9kgs and survived for a year. And it wasn’t like I felt like I needed (or wanted) anything more. I just LOVED living with few things and the necessities and it proved to me that material things will never surmount the happiness that travelling brings. I’m absolutely certain that backpacking is deadset one of the easiest things I’ll ever do in my life.
Of course as the months went by, a lot of these changes/feelings started to be consumed by the act of re-adjusting back to your old life. I hate that. I hated that I was ‘readjusting’. Why did I have to re-adjust? Why did I feel like I can’t just continue and go forward? The feeling sucks but one change is certain and that’s the lust for travel.